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Getting Your Goat

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Why do you want to get goats?

This is the first question we ask people who want to buy goats from us, and this is the most important thing to ask yourself before you get your goats. The answer to this question will help you decide which type of goat that would be suit your needs and which sex would be best for you.

Max - 2-8-98First, you need to know that goats are not lawnmowers with legs. Although a goat's digestive system is similar to that of other ruminants, such as cattle and sheep, who are "grazers" and eat grass, goats are more related to deer, who are "browsers". As browsers, goats are designed to eat, and prefer, brush and trees more than grass. Though goats will eat grass, if you are considering getting goats to be lawnmowers, you are going to be sorely disappointed, because they will eat your trees and roses before they will work on the lawn. Goats could be used to help reclaim grasslands that have been overgrown with brush. Our land was overrun with brambles, wild roses, honeysuckle and 100s of small pine tree when we moved here; these are all gone now. If you want to clear brushy land, a goat will be happy to help you with this project; if you want a lawnmower with legs, get a sheep, though a sheep probably will not be as loving and as smart of a pet as a goat will be.

We did start out getting goats to help us clear our brushy land as well as supply us with milk. The land is quite clear now: the brush is long gone, but we still have our goats. Now, we keep our goats as milkers and pets; they supply us with milk, love and affection. We did not get into goats for the sole purpose of making money and I would never advise someone to get into goats for the intended purpose of making a profit from them. If you are lucky, after years of work, you might break even. The best reason to get into goats is because you love them and you want them to be a part of your life.

 

Now, let me share with you this story...

Our first goat - A lesson on what not to get:

When we moved here to the country from Chicago, we were pretty much "babes in the woods" when it came to this country living stuff and listened to what people we thought knew what they were talking about. We had land to clear, so "locals" told us to get a goat. We knew nothing about goats, but went to the livestock sale and looked for one. (first mistake)

The first goat we ever bought was a single (second mistake), intact buck (third mistake) with horns (fourth mistake). He was 3 months old and so cute. We really had no knowledge about goats, and so I relied on the "breeder" to help and guide us. Well, it turned out the "breeder" was more interested in getting this problem goat off his hands then helping a couple of "rubes" and I was totally misled about what we were getting into. "Would his horns (now 2 inches long) get any bigger", I asked? "No", the 'breeder' said. "Will it be a problem that he is an intact boy", I ask? "No, you won't have a problem", the 'breeder' said. The 'breeder' never mentioned the fact that getting just one goat was a bad idea, as we later learned when "GoatBoy" stood at the fence and yelled and yelled all day for us to come be with him because he was lonely for companionship.

The little buck was a friendly guy and we grew to love him, but he started to develop, what we thought, was an odd habit of peeing on himself. At first it was amusing, but later it became a bit of a problem, as we were constantly being showered when we were around him. Eventually we could not pet him anymore, because every time we tried to show him affection, he would start acting odd, squirting pee and getting a boner (read more about bucks by clicking here).

His horns continued to grow and he became more and more aggressive. He started using his horns to scratch his back and then he started challenging us. We were still "rubes" and didn't understand his dominance challenges. We wanted to treat him with love, so never really disciplined him. As Fall settled in and he was about 7 months old, he challenged more and more. He understood he had horns and how to use them. He knew he could scare us if he wanted to. Then, one day, he gored me- on purpose. Our loving little boy had become a nightmare and we were forced to find him a new home where he could live with other bucks.

Our experiences with our first goat really educated us. Because we were so mislead by that 'breeder' trying to make a quick dollar, we became motivated to not only learn everything we could possibly learn about goats, but also to educate other people about goats. It became very important to us to try to help people learn from OUR mistakes, and not have to learn from their own mistakes. This is why I started creating this web site: to help people, because we were in their place when we first started out too.

End note to this story:
"GoatBoy" bred one doe while he was with us, Goldie. We made a big mistake using just any-ol'-buck our first year with goats and have regretted it even since. It took years (I mean years) to breed out the bad genes that "GoatBoy" passed to his offspring (children, grandchildren, great grandchildren). After years of trying to improve on this original breeding, we actually have none of GoatBoy's blood left in our herd because we ended up selling all his progeny, since they just were never as good as the other kids we got when we bred Goldie to good bucks. Some of his progeny just carried out-and-out flaws (extra/supernumerary teats) that we could never breed out. Our final lesson from GoatBoy: Just because a buck has a penis is not a good enough reason to use him for breeding. Please read more about bucks here.

 

Goats for Pets: Friendly Goats vs. "Taming" "Wild" Goats:

Pickles & TroubleIf you want goats for pets, and you want to approach and touch these goats, you need to make sure the goats are approachable and touchable BEFORE you get them. Do not get goats "wild" thinking you will "tame" them later; it can be next to impossible to "tame" a "wild" goat, though, it is not totally impossible in some cases.

There is no simple way to "tame" a goat. To win the goat over will take a lot of patience, caring, love and food treats such as corn chips or raisins. Try not to chase the goat, because, being prey animals, this will only make them more scared of you. Let them get used to their new home first. Once used to their new home, you might try taking advantage of their natural curiosity and just sit there, in a non-threatening peaceful fashion and let them approach you. If, and when, they do approach you, offer a corn chip. Go slowly and patiently and don't push the issue to fast. The younger the goat is, the easier it will be to convince them that you are their friend, but a young age is no guarantee they will be tamable. The older they are, the more patience you will need.

You can skip a lot of frustration by starting with friendly goats that are already used to people to begin with.

 

 

Are some goats generally friendlier than others? Are boys friendlier than girls?

After having goats for many years, and raising them all with the same amount of love and attention, we have found that males do indeed tend to be generally "friendlier" than does. This may be because boys (both bucks and wethers) are naturally a bit more outgoing and tend to be more demonstrative about showing/demanding affection/attention. Does can be a little "meeker" but deep down, they really can be just as loving. This, of course, is in general, there are always exceptions to the rule. Also, wethers never have kids like does, or think about having sex all the time like bucks, and so stay "immature" all their life and have more time to spend wanting love and attention from you. That said, if you just want pets, wethers are your best bet.

 

Which breed do you want/need?

There are many breeds of goats, and each breed has its good points... it depends on your needs. For more info about all the various goat breeds, click here. No matter what breed you choose, make sure you start with friendly, healthy goats. You really can't go wrong with whatever breed you decide on as long as they start out friendly and healthy.

I am often asked which breed I personally recommend:

For milkers and/or pets/companions we like LaManchas. This is the breed we raise. We have tried Nubians and Oberhaslis, but settled on LaManchas. Many people are unfamiliar with the LaMancha breed. LaManchas have a wonderful temperament. They are very naturally friendly, trainable, loving and easy to handle. I think some people automatically suggest Pygmies as pets because they are well known and smaller. The LaMancha is a medium sized breed, not small like the Pygmy. LaManchas are also naturally very healthy and hardy, which is nice for first time goat owners. Many people like Nubians for their long ears and roman noses, but interestingly this breed is the least naturally healthy of all the dairy breeds, so you may want to take that into consideration. Nubians have what I call a "proud" temperament. So, for loving pets, I highly recommend LaManchas. For milkers, I also highly recommend LaManchas. LaManchas have a high butterfat in their milk and so their milk is delicious and also very good for cheesemaking.

Of course I am a little bias in favor of LaManchas <smile>. All goats are great. Look over the Breed page and this will help you choose the breed that is right for you. Remember that just because some breeds are dairy goats does not mean the you have to milk them. You can keep a dairy goat as a pet and never end up having to milk them. Though, it is nice to have a loving companion that will happily supply you with nutritious raw milk if you need it, thus freeing you from having to buy factory farmed milk from the grocery store.

 

Which sex to you want/need?

Wether (neutered male):
If all you want is a pet, companion or land clearer and do not care about getting milk, you want a wether. Wethers never develop a smell or get aggressive. They will stay "kid like" their whole lives. They will learn their names and come when called. They will be very loving and affectionate if you treat them accordingly. We have found, in general, wethers tend to be friendlier than does (see here). The nice thing about wethers, is that they are cheaper than does or bucks, so buying two wethers is still less expensive than buying just one doe. Also, wethers eat less grain than does or bucks so they are also less expensive to keep.

 

Doe (female):
If you want milk as well as companionship, you should get a doe. They will learn their names and may come when called. It is nice to have a loving companion that could happily supply you with nutritious raw milk if you need it, thus freeing you from having to buy factory farmed milk from the grocery store.

You can keep a doe as a pet and never end up having to milk them, if you never breed her. Or, if you do breed her and decided you do not want to milk her, just leave her kids on her and they will take care of all the milk.

If you want milk right away you could start with doe already in milk, or if you are adventurous, you could start with a pregnant doe (of course you will also need a friend for her such as another non-pregnant doe or wether). If you do start with a pregnant doe make sure to get a healthy doe from a good breeder. Make sure you find out the day she was bred and the date she is due to kid. If the breeder doesn't know this, find another breeder and doe. You do not want any surprises your first time kidding. Also, if you want to start with a pregnant doe, get one who has already had kids before and is a proven milker. This is for three reasons: 1) At least one of you will have been through kidding and milking before; 2) A "first timer's" teats will still be small and may be difficult to milk for someone without experience; and 3) If you buy a "first timer" there is a good chance she will not be able to produce enough milk for both you and her kids during her first lactation.

If you are getting a doe for milk, you must also make sure she has a good udder; this is very important. Don't just assume any ol' female goat will have a good udder and be a good milker. If she is young and hasn't "made" her udder yet, make sure her mother had a good udder and her father "throws" good udders. A bad udder will not get any better; it will only get worse over time (like a woman who never wears a bra, she will get saggier and saggier over time) . What is a good udder and what is a bad udder? A good udder has good "attachments" (ligaments attaching/holding the udder to the body); that means the doe holds the udder up high and tight to her body. A bad udder hangs/sags down low and this can lead to problems and even damage. Please read the story of Margie. In this story I talk about her udder not being good. Later in her life, when she was living at another farm, because her udder hung so low, she caught it on something and ripped her udder open. It was horrible. We went over to try to help repair her udder, but it was so bad she had to be rushed to the hospital. She eventually had to have a mastectomy. This was a severe case, but you need to keep in mind that if you want a doe that produces a lot of milk for you, you need to get a doe that is well bred and has a nice, well attached udder and nicely sized teats for milking. See HERE for photos of nice, well attached udders. Also keep in mind that miniature goats such as Nigerians have miniature teats. These smaller teat can be harder to hand milk (especially for beginners), so it your are serious about wanting to milk your goat, consider a full sized doe.

If you plan on milking your goat, it goes without saying that you should get a goat that is already friendly and used to people handling her. A "wild" doe is not going to be happy about you trying to milk her.

 

SpartacusBuck (intact male):
If you are a first time goat buyer, You DO NOT want a buck under any circumstances (no matter what some "old timer" tells you). It is important that all people wanting to get into goats should read this page. A buck is not a companion: a buck is for breeding, period. You do not need a buck unless you already have does enough does to breed to warrant it and you can provide the buck with separate living quarters and a companion (wether or another buck- not a doe).

 

How many goats should you get?

Because goats are herd animals you should not get just one goat; goats need the companionship of their own kind. A single goat will be very, very unhappy (and, of course, you want you goats to be happy). Please keep in mind that you need to start out with a least two goats. If you already have one goat, please get another goat as soon as you can; goats need the companionship of their own kind. BUT if you are a first time goat getter, please do not go out and get a buck and a doe because "logic" tells you, like Noah, you should have one of each sex. You are asking for problems and you would really do quite well with a doe and a wether, two does or two wethers.

If you are getting goats for the first time, start small and let your new herd grow gradually as you learn how to care for your goats properly. The more goats you have, the more time it will take to care for them. Even with just a couple of goats, it will take some time each day to care for them. Goats are social creatures, and because of this they need "our" time in addition to each others. They adopt us into "their" herd and they expect to socialize properly on a regular basis.

A friend suggested that I also add here that one very good reason to start small and grow slowly is the fact that these charming animals are extremely addictive and for some people, it is difficult to get rid of, or sell, their goats because each individual animal is special.

Whether you are a first timer goat getter, or an experienced goat owner, remember: more is not always better; quality is more important than quantity.

 

 

What about horns?

You do not want a goat with horns. It is your decision to make, of course, but I'm talking to you now as a friend, let me say that, from personal experience, and knowing human nature, goats and goat behavior very well, please, do not get a goat with horns or you may regret it later. If your goats have kids, please be responsible and disbud them at the proper time. Yes, horns can be very beautiful, but they are also very dangerous, to you, your family and other goats. Even if the goat is a pet, and friendly, he/she can accidentally, or on purpose, seriously injure other goats, animals and humans. Goats learn to use their horns; they can, and will, use them on their herd mates (goat can, at times, be very violent with each other: it is their natural way). I know of a goat that gored her herd mate through the chest. A loving pet goat with horns could easily, even if accentually, injure a child- it's just not worth the risk to your children. I hate to see a pet goat end up in the auction barn because they hurt their owner, their owners children, or their fellow herd mate.

Horns can, and do, get caught in fences, which can be very dangerous for the goat, causing her to strangle him or herself, or leaving him/her open to attack by predators. I knew a goat that got their horns caught is a low basketball net. Don't think that if your goat has horns, he can/will defend himself against dogs (no matter what someone told you). If a dog wants to kill a goat, and he can get through your fence, he will kill the goat, with or without horns.

If you are going to show your goat, or the goat is a 4-H project, he/she must be disbudded.

Read more about this subject here.

If you get a goat with horns over 1/2 - 3/4 inch long... you are stuck with having horns. (read this link)

 

How old?

You need to be prepared for whatever age goat you choose to get. If you decide to get a kid, you need to make sure you know what you need to know to care for them. Just because they are cute is no reason to get a kid unless you can properly care for them. If they need to be bottle fed, you need to make sure you understand all this entails BEFORE you take on the responsibility of caring for them (click here for more info on bottle feeding). I don't recommenced getting a kid that needs bottle feeding because I do not believe that kids should be taken away from their mothers. The saying that a kid must be bottle raised to be friendly is not true; please read this. If you end up with a kid that needs to be bottle fed because the mother died, then you'd better make sure you read up on caring for them before you accept the responsibility.

Adults or adolescents (kids over 2 months of age) are better first time goats. If you get an adult doe, make sure to find out if she is pregnant or not. You need to be prepared to care for he accordingly.

Average Goat Life span:

Does = 11-12 years average age, but... usually the death in does is kidding related.  Does that are "retired" from breeding around age 10 live longer... up to 16-18 years. I just recently found a doe who was 24; she was retired from kidding at age 10.

Wethers = 11-16 years average age

Bucks = 8-10 average age - bucks usually live shorter lives than does and wethers due to the stresses of going into rut each year; this really takes a lot our of them

 

 

Recommendations for Getting Your Goat:

  1. DO NOT BUY A GOAT FROM THE "AUCTION BARN".
    • The Auction is where many people take their "problems" to get rid of. If the animal you end up with is not sick or has some underlying health problem already, he/she may have come in contact with sick animals at the auction. The last thing a first time goat owner needs is a sick goat. I have heard too many times of people who bought a kid at the auction for only $10 - look what a great deal they got. Then I hear a week or two later, after they have spent $100+ at the vet and the kid ended up dieing.
    • Babies are ripped from their mothers at auction and sold just so humans can make a fast buck with no care for the health or emotions of the animals. This practice is inhumane and cruel and should not be encouraged
    • I request that you not support Auction barns or sales because the animals pushed through these places are often not treated in a humane manner and that sort of thing should not be encouraged.
  2. If you are a first time goat buyer, DO NOT get a buck under any circumstances (read this page).You do not need a buck unless you already have does enough does to breed to warrant it and you can provide the buck with separate living quarters and a companion (wether or another buck- not a doe).
  3. Because goats are herd animals you should not get just one goat, they need the companionship of their own kind. A single goat will be very unhappy so you should start with at least two. If you are a first time goat getter, please do not and go out and get a buck and a doe because "logic" tells you, like Noah, you should have one of each sex. You are asking for problems and you would really do quite well with a doe and a wether, two does or two wethers.
  4. Do not get a goat with horns (read this page).
  5. Only buy what you need and/or can handle. More is not always better.
  6. If you just want pets, consider wethers.
  7. Get goats that are friendly and used to people. It is extremely difficult to "tame" a "wild" goat.
  8. Try to buy from a reputable breeder with well bred, healthy stock. Try to visit the farm and see the herd that your goats are coming from.
  9. If you are buying a goat as a milker, make sure she has a good, well attached udder and comes from good milk stock.
  10. For more information on choosing which breed of goat is right for you, click here.

 

 

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